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Caleb's Posse works for Southwest

Caleb's Posse notched his second career stakes win on a foggy Hot Springs afternoon (Sunny Taylor/Coady Photography)

CALEB'S POSSE (Posse), winner of the Smarty Jones S. on January 17, smoothly returned to work Saturday morning at Oaklawn Park under ideal weather conditions, posting a quick five-furlong breeze over the fast track in preparation for the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) on February 21.

With jockey Eddie Razo Jr. aboard, Caleb's Posse posted a time of 1:01 -- co-fastest of 31 horses at that distance -- for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Interestingly, the other horse to go in 1:01 was Billy Two Hats (Aragorn [Ire]), a maiden three-year-old who worked from the gate for Donnie's father Don Von Hemel.

"He's come back excellent from his race," said Razo, Oaklawn's 2008 leading rider was aboard for Caleb's Posse's 2 3/4-length victory in the Smarty Jones. "He is really on the muscle. I worked him before and he was more laid back. Today he was really handy and I felt like I might have gone a little quicker than I liked, but I didn't want to take anything from him."

Von Hemel had no concerns about Razo's handling and declared himself pleased with the move.

"He looked like he clicked each eighth in 12 (seconds) and a tick," Von Hemel said. "It's hard to clock from the pony, but I'm happy with the way he did it. He hadn't worked in two weeks. That's probably what Eddie was feeling, but it was A-OK in my book.

The Southwest is step 2 on the path leading top three-year-olds to the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16 and the dreamed-of trip to the Kentucky Derby (G1). Von Hemel has been guarded regarding Caleb's Posse's chances as the races get longer, but his colt has shown him encouraging signs and he says he hasn't had to alter his training style trying to condition the horse for those tests.

"Fortunately with him, we don't have to do anything with his workouts or how far we work him," he said. "He's shown us he can settle in the middle parts of his races and that's the most important thing in races like that."

Von Hemel could potentially have another Southwest starter in ALTERNATION (Distorted Humor). The winner of a high-powered allowance race January 16. he breezed five furlongs Thursday in 1:03.


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